Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Tar Sands

Energy sources are really all about the price it costs to get the energy needed to do something.  The economics of supply and demand are big feature of energy prices.   A low supply means a high price, a high price means more people looking for supply to meet that demand.

There are constant concerns about the idea of peak oil, that we will run out of available oil and that society will suffer for it.    This analysis ignores several important factors.

As the price of oil rises the amount of oil in the ground that is economic to recover rises - an increase in supply
As the price of oil rises, other energy sources become more affordable - a change in energy source
As the price rises more people spend more money on finding cheaper ways to extract more oil.

A rising price of oil will make the market conditions for the globe to use less oil.

The Tar Sands in Canada are the one major source that increases constantly.   As the price rises the amount oil they can afford to recover increases.   Also each year through innovations the cost to extract oil goes down.   Canada's oil reserves are going to grow ever faster.   As they grow, investment win the tar sands will rise.

The only answer to the demand for the tar sands oil is for other energy sources to become significantly cheaper and reduce the global demand for oil.   The idea that one can stop it through boycotting or regulation is not realistic and takes time and energy away from the real solution.

The change will come when motor vehicles are driven by electrical power and electricity is produced from green sources.   Society was dependent on biomass (wood, peat, charcoal) as a primary energy sources for thousands of years, the only other one available was human and animal energy.   When coal came about these older energy sources no longer provided the main energy for human society.

Oil will fade when we adopt something cheaper and better, that is when the tar sands will fade away

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